Mission: Water | Studying Coral Bleaching Events
In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs to a massive beaching event. Checkout the article from Mission: Water Magazine to learn how scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Institute (STRI) are working to keep these types of events from happening again.
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Below is a short teaser:
“Bustling, vibrant coral reefs have faded into pale underwater ghost towns, threatening biodiversity around the world. Over the past 30 years, massive bleaching events in the Galapagos Islands, the Coral Triangle of the western Pacific, and the Caribbean have alarmed scientists, who worry about the ability of reef ecosystems to recover from bleaching, especially in the face of increasingly warm El Niño weather cycles.
Coral reefs are massive colonies of tiny organisms living in a delicate balance. Coral polyps are related to sea anemones and jellyfish, with tentacles that wave in the water to capture and draw in food. The polyps protect their soft bodies by building cup-like exoskeletons around themselves. Billions of those skeletons form the stony reefs that shelter not only the polyps, but also thousands of species of fish, crustaceans and other sea life—in fact, as many as 25 percent of marine species rely on coral reefs for food or habitat.
Among the tiniest of those reef residents is a linchpin in the ecosystem. Inside their fortress-like exoskeletons, corals host zooxanthellae, microscopic algae that use carbon dioxide and nutrients from waste products excreted by respiring coral to fuel their photosynthesis. Through that process, the algae produce sugars, fats and oxygen that help sustain the coral.
But if water temperatures climb too high, the algae exude toxic products, causing the coral to expel the zooxanthellae and turn ghostly white. Deprived of nutrition that had been provided by the algae, the coral can die in weeks. Certain types of coral die off more quickly than others, causing shifts in the ecological balance of species.
At the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Bocas del Toro, Panama, postdoctoral fellow Dr. Janina Seemann has studied coral bleaching in the Caribbean and is at the forefront of researching the ecological effects of human activities on coral reefs. Her work is part of the MarineGEO (Marine Global Earth Observatory, @SImarineGEO), the Smithsonian’s detailed, long-term survey of coastal water conditions and life forms around the world, coordinated by Dr. Emmett Duffy.
Water quality data is at the heart of the MarineGEO research Seemann is conducting. She relies on a pair of EXO sondes from YSI to track a wide range of water quality parameters. One EXO sonde gathers a continuous stream of data from a platform in Panama’s Almirante Bay, providing a running overview of seasonal changes in water temperature, salinity, turbidity, pH, blooms of plankton or algae, and other variables.”
Mission: Water is a new magazine featuring the organizations and researchers who tackle the world’s most challenging water issues. It highlights the latest trends in instrumentation and research applications, while also offering additional educational resources on environmentally-focused matters.
Our goal is to help you stay informed about topics relevant to you. Our inaugural edition will cover articles ranging from monitoring Nepal’s sacred rivers to examining coral bleaching events off the coast of Panama; research on fish diversity and nutrient recycling in Africa’s Lake Tanganyika and much more!
Download the inaugural edition for free!
Additional Blog Posts of Interest:
Monitoring Coral Reefs in the Caribbean: Protecting our Rainforests of the Ocean
Global Explorers: Navigating Climate Data [Free eBook]
Extend Your Water Quality Sonde Deployment Times with Wiped Sensors [Case Study]
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